Gov. Sam Brownback has been extra busy lately blaming everyone else for the state’s budget problems. Will he ever admit that his tax policies have failed to produce the economic growth he promised?
After new tax revenue estimates showed that the state was facing about a $300 million budget shortfall this fiscal year and next, Brownback blamed low commodity and oil and gas prices.
Those declines have certainly hurt state tax revenue. But as Ken Kriz, an economist at Wichita State University, noted, the commodity market is only one factor in the current budget shortfall.
The reality is that the state budget was in trouble long before the drop in oil and agriculture prices. And if the state had not burned through all its ending balance trying to preserve Brownback’s income tax cuts and exemptions, it might have had the cash reserves to adsorb the market downturn.
But Brownback isn’t just blaming the markets. He is also blaming the media – or rather the “liberal media.”
The day after the revenue estimates were released last week, Brownback sent out a fundraising letter asking donors to help him pay off 2014 campaign debts. It was filled with complaints about “media elitists,” “leftists in the media” and “liberals in the media.”
He griped that “the liberal media continues to unleash a daily barrage of false and misleading attacks against our state and our values.”
Not surprisingly, the letter didn’t mention the budget shortfall. Or his proposal to make more cuts to higher education. Or to transfer even more money from the state highway fund (he has already swiped more than $1 billion). Or how there was zero job growth in Kansas during the past 12 months (his campaign goal was 25,000 new jobs a year).
Such blame shifting is nothing new. In the past Brownback has also blamed President Obama, even though the national economy has far outpaced Kansas. And he has blamed the state’s revenue estimates.
Other Brownback officials have blamed the budget problems on increased costs for Medicaid and the state’s pension system – as if those weren’t predictable expenses.
Brownback placed a huge bet that slashing income taxes would act like “a shot of adrenaline into the heart of the Kansas economy.” That didn’t happen, and the state has faced budget problems ever since.
Instead of admitting this failure and changing course, Brownback just finds someone or something else to blame.